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Friday, August 29, 2008

Yankees get a win to savor in October when they're sitting at home


After winning the first two games of the final regular season Yankees-Red Sox series at Yankee Stadium, Boston had a great chance to pick up the sweep yesterday afternoon. Jon Lester was dealing and his team had a 2-0 lead when he departed with two outs in the seventh.

Sadly, Hideki Okajima reverted back to his earlier season form: giving up a pinch-hit two-run homer to Jason Giambi. The Giambino added the game-winning hit in the ninth, a bases-loaded single off Jonathan Papelbon with one out.

It was still a very successful trip for the Sox (77-56). The road has been one of their biggest weaknesses this season but they won three series in a row. Boston now has 20 of its last 29 games at Fenway. They're 4.5 behind the Rays in the AL East but 2.5 games ahead of the Twins (who appear to be finally fading a bit).

At 10.5 games behind in the AL East and six games behind Boston in the Wild Card, to say the Yankees (71-62) are on life support is generous. Regardless, they came through with an exciting win for the home fans.

Jon Lester and Mike Mussina dueled for seven innings but neither factored in the decision. Lester stuck around for 6.2 innings, allowing one run on five hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. He left since his pitch count was up to 119.

Mussina went seven innings. He gave up two runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

Boston got both of its runs in the fifth on a Jason Varitek RBI single and Jacoby Ellsbury's fielder's choice.

Giambi homered to deep center with two outs in the seventh and then delivered again in the ninth after Justin Masterson (4-4) had loaded the bases. Papelbon was up 0-2 on Giambi but he left a fastball over the middle of the plate.

Derek Jeter had three hits off Lester and Mariano Rivera (5-5) got the win after recording four outs.

The Red Sox had more bad news after the game as Josh Beckett was scratched once again from his scheduled start tonight. He's also going to visit Dr. James Andrews to check out his elbow which is never a good sign.

In addition, the first-place Chicago White Sox come to Fenway for three games beginning tonight. The slugging White Sox will probably hit about 15 homers over the course of the series.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's Gonna Be a Long Offseason in the Bronx


All season long, even before the rash of injuries, it was clear that the New York Yankees were a flawed team. They weren't built for success in the postseason (not enough arms, defense or OBP guys). Still, in my wildest, PCP-induced dreams, I could have never imagined that the Yankees would miss the playoffs for the first time in 14 years and be all but dead before the calendar even says September.

In its second to last game at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox blew out the Yanks, 11-3. In the process, they showed New York a blueprint for why they've won two World Series championships in the last four seasons while the Yankees are 0-for the new Millenium. The keys to the 2008 Red Sox: Quality starting pitching, patient hitters and young studs getting plenty of playing time.

Boston (77-55) once again wore out Yankees (70-62) pitchers, with 13 hits and six walks. Dustin Pedroia led the way, going 3-for-4 with three runs and four RBIs on his first career grand slam. Jason Bay was 2-for-4 with four RBIs and a run. David Ortiz was on base four times with two hits and two walks while Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits and scored twice.

Veteran Paul Byrd (9-11) gave his team all you can ask of a fifth starter: six innings, two runs, five hits, two walks and five strikeouts.

Sidney Ponson (7-5) wasn't so lucky for New York. He went 4.2 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts. The duo of Jose Veras (five runs) and David Roberston (two runs) made sure that the Yankees faithful went home early as the Sox exploded for seven runs in the eighth.

A-Rod had two doubles, a run and RBI but nobody will remember that since his team got smoked and it occured after his nightmarish performance the night before.

Jason Bay drove in Pedroia and Ortiz with an RBI double in the first. Bobby Abreu scored on A-Rod's double in the first, making it 2-1 Red Sox.

Robinson Cano tied it in the fourth with an RBI single but Boston scored twice in the fifth to regain the lead. Kevin Youkilis walked with the bases loaded and Bay had a sacrifice fly score Pedroia.

The eighth was a hit parade for the Red Sox. Bay tripled in Pedroia, Alex Cora had a sacrifice fly which scored Bay, Coco Crisp knocked in Jed Lowrie with a single and then Pedroia blasted his grand slam to left center.

Jason Giambi homered in the ninth but by that time, most of New York's fans were gone or had turned off the YES Network.

Mike Mussina and Jon Lester-the two surprise aces of their respective teams this season-duel this afternoon in the finale.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A-Rod, still choking in the clutch like noneother


For only one game, last night provided immense pleasure for a Red Sox fan. The Sox beat the Yankees, 7-3, in game one of the last Sox-Yankees series at Yankee Stadium.

Secondly, A-Rod shat the bed in epic proportions. He was 0-for-5, grounded into two double plays (one with the bases loaded), made an error and struck out twice (once to end the game). At least he has that hag Madonna to console him as the Yankees' (70-61) season continues to fall apart.

Fresh off the DL, Tim Wakefield (8-8) pitched five innings to get the win. Wake gave up three runs on eight hits with a walk and a strikeout.

Andy Pettitte, who had such a great start to the season, can't seem to get untracked lately. Boston (76-55) made the lefty throw 101 pitches in 4.2 innings. Pettitte allowed six runs (all earned) on 10 hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

In total, the Sox banged out 14 hits and worked seven walks from the Yankees subpar bunch of relievers. Coco Crisp led the way with three hits, a run, an RBI and a steal. David Ortiz had two doubles, two walks and a run. Jason Bay and Jeff Bailey each added two hits and two RBIs while Kevin Cash added two hits.

Johnny Damon was the lone brightspot for the Yanks. He hit a solo homer in the first and another solo shot in the fifth.

Jacoby Ellsbury tied it at 1 in the second with an RBI single. Jose Molina gave New York its last lead in the second with an RBI single.

Boston scored twice in the third on Kevin Youkilis's RBI double and a Bay RBI single. The Sox opened it up with three more in the fifth. Coco knocked in Bay with a single and Jeff Bailey brought home two with an infield single that Jason Giambi forgot to throw home (he was too busy growing his moustache, damn it).

Jason Bay's sacrifice fly in the sixth was the last run for the good guys.

Hideki Okajima got the first two outs in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon came on to recorded his 34th save after retiring four Yankees hitters.

Paul Byrd goes for the Sox tonight against Sidney Ponson, something you probably didn't expect to say at the beginning of the season.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Jed Lowrie, You Give Me the Business


With the injuries piling up lately, it hasn't been pretty but the Red Sox took care of business (baby) with a 6-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in 11 innings yesterday at the Rogers Centre.

Boston (75-55) won two of three in Toronto and has a day off today before playing its final regular season series at Yankee Stadium.

Toronto (67-63) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on Daisuke Matsuzaka and with A.J. Burnett on the mound, the Blue Jays looked poised to take another one from the Red Sox.

It was a true team win as numerous guys on the Red Sox contributed in big ways. Jacoby Ellsbury ran into a wall to make a catch, Jason Bay made a leaping catch at the left field fence to end the 10th, Dustin Pedroia hit a three-run bomb, Jonathan Papelbon threw two scoreless innings, Manny Delcarmen recorded a save and Jed Lowrie put Boston up for good with a homer in the 11th inning.

On a day where Dice-K really needed to give his beleaguered bullpen some innings, he came through. Kinda. Matsuzaka lasted six innings, giving up five runs on eight hits with a walk and eight strikeouts.

Now that Rich Harden is healthy (knock on wood) and racking up wins and double digit strikeout totals for the Cubs, Burnett has officially taken over the title of baseball's most hyped pitcher, who has never put it together for a full season. Believe it or not, for as good as Burnett's stuff is, he's never had more than 12 wins in a season.

He entered yesterday on a hot streak, with a career-high 16 wins to his name but his record didn't change. Burnett went seven innings, allowing five runs on seven hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.

No hitter has killed the Red Sox as much this season as Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells (2 runs, 2 hits, 3 RBIs, walk). He added to his stats with a two-run homer in the first off Dice-K.

Pedroia put the Sox up 3-2 in the third with his 14th homer of the season. Boston's other hitter having a dream season, Kevin Youkilis, increased the lead to 4-2 with an RBI single later in the frame.

Lyle Overbay hit a solo homer in the fourth and the Jays tied it in the sixth on Wells' RBI double. Rod Barajas put Toronto up 5-4 but Matt Stairs was thrown out at home to end the inning.

Coco Crisp hit a solo homer in the seventh to tie it up and then Lowrie hit his first lefthanded homer (and second overall) in the majors, to put Boston up 6-5 in the 11th.

The Red Sox bullpen gets an A yesterday as they combined for five scoreless innings. Justin Masterson (who's settling down nicely in his new role) got four outs before Hideki Okajima (who has quietly turned his season around) got the last two outs of the eighth. Even in a tie game on the road, Papelbon went two innings and Delcarmen managed to nail down the save after walking the leadoff hitter.

The Rays lost in 10 innings yesterday to the White Sox so they're currently 4.5 games up on Boston. The Yankees are five games behind Boston and the Red Sox lead the Wild Card by one game.

Clearly, the three games against the Yankees could prove pivotal as the Sox could put the final nail in the Bombers' coffin by taking at least two games. Nothing is ever that easy though and with Tim Wakefield (fresh off the DL) and Paul Byrd scheduled to start the first two games, it could turn into batting practice quickly.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Next stop for Clay Buchholz: Loserville; Population: Him


A pennant race/push towards the playoffs is no time to have a guy take the ball every fifth day that is a guaranteed loss.

With one more stinkbomb, an 11-6 loss to the Orioles (61-65), Red Sox (73-54) rookie Clay Buchholz earned a trip back to the minors.

For a guy that showed so much promise last year (no-hitter in his second career start) before being shutdown for the playoffs, Buchholz has done very little to impress with the Red Sox this season.

His record fell to 2-9 after 2.1 innings of garbage. He allowed five runs (all earned) on three hits with three walks. Ironically, Boston gave him a 4-0 in the second but that wasn't enough as Buchholz lost his third straight start where his team had a lead while he pitched.

Kevin Youkilis (2 hits, RBI) knocked in Dustin Pedroia with a single in the first. Jed Lowrie later walked with the bases loaded, 2-0 Red Sox as Orioles rookie Chris Waters seemed to have nothing.

Kevin Cash scored on a Waters throwing error in the second and David Ortiz singled home Jacoby Ellsbury to give Boston the ill-fated 4-0 lead.

Lou Montanez began the Oriole comeback in the second with an RBI single and Brian Roberts (2 hits, 2 RBIs, run, walk) drove in two with an RBI single.

By the time Ramon Hernandez hit a three-run homer off David Aardsma in the third, Buchholz was probably packing up his stuff in the clubhouse. Juan Castro put Baltimore up 7-4 with an RBI single later in the inning.

Melvin Mora's three-run bomb in the fourth meant it was over. Jason Bay hit a solo shot in the fifth but Mora added a sacrifice fly in the fifth, pushing it to 11-5 Orioles.

Jacoby Ellsbury doubled home Jeff Bailey in the eighth, a meaningless run.

Boston has an off-day today before beginning a three-game set in Toronto tomorrow night. As the Sox saw last weekend, while the Jays are too flawed and probably a little too far out of the playoff race, their pitching can keep them in any game. The Sox' patchwork rotation and bullpen will need to wake up or else similar results to last night and last weekend will be more and more prevalent.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Worst 15-2 Pitcher in MLB History


In 2008, Daisuke Matsuzaka defies all logic and reason of baseball. He leads the AL in walks and consistently has trouble getting out of the fifth or sixth inning, yet last night he won another game he probably didn't deserve, improving his record to 15-2 with a 2.77 E.R.A.

Boston (73-53) won 7-2 at Camden Yards as the Orioles (60-65) hot offense was once again shut down by a slew of Boston pitchers.

So how come Dice-K's Cy Young campaign as taken about as seriously as John McCain's presidential campaign? If you've seen more than one or two of his outings, you notice that there's absolutely no flow. He seems to pitch much better when there's runners on base. With the bases loaded this season, hitters are 0-for-14 against him. How is that possible?

Dice-K went five innings but still threw 105 pitches (60 strikes). He gave up two runs (both earned) on six hits with five walks and six strikeouts.

Big ups to the Sox bullpen which pieced together four scoreless innings between three guys. Javier Lopez had a clean sixth, Justin Masterson struck out two in his two innings and Manny Delcarmen (Dice-K junior in terms of putting guys on for fun) gave up two hits but no runs in the ninth.

Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera still can't beat the Red Sox as he dropped to 2-11 lifetime against Boston. Cabrera seems to have slightly harnessed his wildness from years past but he still is nothing special. Going in, a seasoned fan knew this would be a marathon and the teams didn't disappoint, clocking in at three hours and twenty one minutes.

Cabrera (8-8) gave up six runs on nine hits in 4.1 innings. He walked three and struck out two.

The Sox lineup continues to get the job done post-Manny, with Mike Lowell on the DL and J.D. Drew out with a typical fake injury. Most "experts" say that the Red Sox don't have a chance to win the World Series this year without Manny. That's false as even more important than the offense is the health of our pitchers which right now is shaky at best. They're pushing Josh Beckett's next start back because of soreness in his right arm. Yikes.

Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits, two runs and two steals (his 39th and 40th of the season, the first Red Sox player since Otis Nixon in '94 to get 40). David Ortiz had two hits, two walks and an RBI. The Kevin Youkilis for MVP talk slowly increases each night as Youk went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs. Jason Varitek had a double and homer (second night in a row with a home run), proving that he's not quite dead yet at the plate. Must have been the divorce that was holding him down. Uh yeah.

Ortiz singled home Ellsbury in the first and Jason Bay drove in Dustin Pedroia with a sacrifice fly to give Boston a 2-0 lead.

Varitek homered to right in the second and then the Orioles responded with two in the third. Ramon Hernandez drove in Melvin Mora with a single and Luke Scott followed with an RBI single of his own.

Three runs in the fifth by the Sox put it away. Youkilis' two run jack made it 5-2 before Varitek drove in Bay with the RBI double.

Youkilis closed it out with an RBI single in the eighth which scored Ellsbury.

Tonight's series finale is a toss up as Clay Buchholz goes against Orioles rookie Chris Waters, making his fourth major league start. Should be another game determined by the bullpens as I can't see either of these guys lasting long.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jon Lester pisses excellence


What have I been saying the last few months? Jon Lester is the ace of the 2008 Boston Red Sox. Josh Beckett has the much-deserved reputation and Dice-K has the impressive numbers but if the Sox need one game to win this season, I'll take Lester over those other two.

Once again, Lester righted the Goodship Red Sox with another fine outing last night in Camden Yards against the Orioles.

Boston (72-53) beat Baltimore (60-64), 6-3, and for one night erased memories of the terrible rain-shortened weekend series against the Blue Jays. Sure our bullpen is a mess but if Lester, Beckett and Dice-K can pitch to their capabilities and Papelbon is healthy, we have a good shot to make some noise in October.

Lester improved to 12-4 with seven innings of one-run ball. He allowed four hits, one walk and struck out five.

Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie (10-9) is always a Red Sox killer and he pitched well enough to deserve better. He lasted seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits with five walks and four strikeouts.

Boston's bats were led by Jason Bay and David Ortiz. Bay was 3-for-5 with two homers, four RBIs and a stolen base. Ortiz had two doubles, scored twice and had an RBI.

Bay hit his first homer in the second inning and Jason Varitek followed later in the inning with a solo shot of his own.

Aubrey Huff (who's having a career year) hit a solo home run off Lester in the fourth.

With Ortiz on base, Bay hit his second homer in the eighth, putting the Sox up 4-1.

Manny Delcarmen walked two in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon had to come on with two outs. Huff greeted Papelbon with a two-run double, cutting the lead to 4-3 Boston.

The Sox increased the lead back to three runs in the ninth as Ortiz doubled home Dustin Pedroia and then he scored on Bay's groundout.

Papelbon recorded a 1-2-3 ninth for his 33rd save of the season.

Fantasy Football Rules My World


I love 'em but women will never understand the innate attraction of fantasy football to the average, straight American male. I was reminded of this fact Sunday night as a group of my hometown buddies and myself had our annual draft for our Yahoo league.

Now that I'm out of college (and therefore my social life has taken a nose dive), I can say without hyperbole that my fantasy football league, highlighted by the draft is one of the best parts of the year for me.

We always do a live draft (instead of online) which can be a logistical nightmare but it more than makes up for it since being in the same room together is so much more fun than holding it online while we all look for porn.

There's so many things to like about the draft: drinking, eating, countless inside jokes about others in the league (and recently kicked out), obscure references to NFL players, the list goes on and on.

The older you get, the less fun you seem to have on a day to day basis, sucks right? Fantasy sports, and football particularly since it's the best, lets guys be guys for a few precious hours. We don't have to hang out with girlfriends, hookers or phone sex operators, wasting time doing things we really don't want to do.

Nope, fantasy football is Mantown, USA. Anything is fair game and you're probably not going to laugh more per minute than you do this one time a year. My fantasy football league with my friends from Beverly is one of the most important things in my life. That sounds sad at first but it's the best to see a bunch of people I've grown up with, that I have so much in common with.

We're not all still living in Beverly: Kev lives in Wakefield, Dave is in Attleboro, Christo is in Framingham (pretending he has a job) and KC is in Wallingford, CT just to name a few. What ties us together is this league.

Something that older generations and a certain sex (broads!) don't get is that playing fantasy football (or any fantasy sport for that matter) cultivates more appreciation for the games. When the New England Patriots are on, that takes up my full attention but having fantasy players all around the league means that virtually no game is meaningless anymore. Bills-Dolphins in December? Sure it's a shitty game but I might have Marshawn Lynch and the guy I'm playing that week might have Ronnie Brown. Suddenly, I care about what otherwise would be pretty worthless games.

To throw a few cliches out there, girls spend enough time with each other watching Sex and the City, shopping and uh getting their hair done? Yeah that's it. The least they can do is let their man have Sunday (and Monday night) to himself. It's not that we don't care about you, it's just that work, bills, life in general is so much of a routine that we need an escape. Hello NFL football.

The beauty of fantasy sports is that hope is always around the corner. You can have a worthless bunch of losers but at least once or twice a season, they'll put it together and you'll knock off one of the better teams in the league.

In summation, girls are great (aside from hating on fantasy sports), fantasy football is the shit and my hometown friends are cooler than yours.

Good luck to all the fantasy teams out there and pray with me that Tony Romo (my top pick) doesn't motorboat Jessica Simpson too much and has some energy for another spectacular season (before choking in the playoffs).

Friday, August 15, 2008

When Reached for Comment, Warren Sapp Punched a Reporter In the Face


If you've paid attention to anything the New England Patriots have done over the last seven years, you can't be surprised by their latest move: signing John Lynch to a one-year, $1.5 million deal.

With the brittle Rodney Harrison and James Sanders each one play away from missing the rest of the season, Lynch is a perfect insurance policy for a Patriots secondary that is thin.

Tank Williams was signed during the off-season and there was talks of him playing a hybrid safety-linebacker role, near the line of scrimmage. He did that for about three plays before an injury in the first preseason game ended his season before it ever really started.

The Lynch move is a low risk, high reward deal. Exactly like picking up Junior Seau two summers ago, the Pats brought in a smart, tough, experienced Pro-Bowler, who still has some fire left, looking for one more ring (or in Seau's case one ring period).

Opposing fans, coaches and players around the league despise the Patriots but in times like this, it seems like they're usually playing checkers while Bill Belichick and VP of Personnel Scott Pioli are playing chess.

Oh Texas Rangers, When Will You Learn?


Due to unforeseen technical difficulties, I couldn't update the ol' blog the last few days and that was a bummer since the Sox' series against the Rangers was something straight out of RBI Baseball for SEGA. It was bat-shit crazy with ridiculous comebacks and a revolving door of ineffective pitchers.

The Sox took game one, 19-17 after being up ten runs in the first inning yet facing a deficit in the eighth inning. David Ortiz hit two three-run homers and Kevin Youkilis was the other star with two homers of his own.

Wednesday, Jon Lester pitched the Sox to an 8-4 win over the Rangers. Once again, Boston had a big lead (8-0) but the Rangers at least made it interesting before falling.

Finally, last night Boston (71-51) shutout the Rangers (61-61), 10-0 behind a typical Dice-K outing.

The Red Sox put up a nine-spot in the second vs. Tommy Hunter. The poor guy gave up nine runs on seven hits, recording only five outs.

Coco Crisp had an RBI single, Alex Cora was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and J.D. Drew had an RBI groundout to make it 3-0. Take a breath, Dustin Pedroia (3 hits, 2 runs, RBI) had an RBI double, Ortiz blasted his third three-run bomb of the series, Jason Bay added an RBI single and Jed Lowrie (3 hits, run, RBI) finished the inning with an RBI double.

The Dice-Man as per usual for his starts, couldn't find the plate and yet the Rangers couldn't score any runs off him. It took 115 pitches to get through seven innings but when all was said and done, Dice-K is 14-2 with a 2.74 ERA. He gave up six hits, five walks and five strikeouts.

Could Dice-K win the Cy Young? Surprisingly yes. Cliff Lee is the frontrunner but since he's on a going-nowhere Indians team, his impressive season could fall apart at any point. Dice-K has seemed like about the 20th best pitcher in baseball this season but you can't argue with the numbers.

Pawtucket's Jeff Bailey was called up before the game and was rewarded with some garbage time action. He had an infield single in the eighth which scored Pedroia.

Manny Delcarmen and Mike Timlin each had scoreless frames to end the game.

Over the three games, the Red Sox suddenly smoking hot offense scored 37 runs off the beyond pathetic Ranger pitchers. Kevin Youkilis, Jed Lowrie (who already has more RBIs than Julio Lugo) and David Ortiz were the stars.

A completely opposite type of team comes to town tonight as the Toronto Blue Jays, they of no hitting and lots o' pitching, arrive for three games. The newest Sox pitcher Paul Byrd goes tonight in his Boston debut against Roy Halladay.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bidding Adieu to the White Trash at U.S. Cellular Field


Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford is on the DL and might be out for the rest of the season. Evan Longoria broke his wrist and will also be out for the near future. The Yankees are 9 games back in the AL East and 5 in the Wild Card. The Bronx Bombers are on life support.

The AL playoff picture is slowly sorting itself out; it looks like the Rays and Sox will be duking it out for the AL East, the Angels have the AL West wrapped up and the White Sox and Twins will be in a dogfight in the AL Central. More than any other factor, the reason to have faith in the Red Sox at least making the playoffs is the fact that a top-3 of Beckett, Dice-K and Lester is pretty nice. When October rolls around, its all about pitching, defense and timely hitting as Joe Buck will tell you 1000 times during the first playoff game.

Your Boston Red Sox certainly have issues of their own: Tim Wakefield is on the DL, Clay Buchholz sucks, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and a host of others are banged up but the Sox have a chance to make a move in the AL East the next few weeks as the Rays (hopefully) come back to earth somewhat and the Yankees continue to plummet.

Boston (68-51) earned a split with the Chicago White Sox (65-52) last night with a 5-1 come-from-behind win.

White Sox starter John Danks (9-5) actually had a no-hitter up until one out in the seventh when Youkilis hit a broken bat single over shortstop Orlando Cabrera. After a Mike Lowell walk, J.D. Drew delivered with a two-run single.

The Red Sox added three runs in the ninth on Jed Lowrie's (how good is he?) two-run double and Jacoby Ellsbury's RBI single.

For the second straight time, Josh Beckett (11-8) looked like the 2007 Beckett that should have won the Cy Young. He lasted eight innings and could have closed it out in the ninth but Jonathan Papelbon needed to get out there after having only one other appearance on the road trip. Beckett allowed one run on seven hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.

Chicago scored its lone run in the third when scumbag A.J. Pierzynski knocked in hillbilly Nick Swisher with a sacrifice fly.

With one of the best home records (40-16) in all of baseball, the Red Sox have six at Fenway this week: three against the Texas Rangers and then three vs. the Toronto Blue Jays. Pawtucket knuckleballer Charlie Zink was called up for tonight's game.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hey Look Honey, Jacoby Ellsbury's on base


In big markets like Boston (New York, Philly, LA, Chicago, etc.), we tend to overhype and overvalue our young players in any sport, especially baseball. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that when everyone's favorite Native American Jacoby Ellsbury took the American League by storm last year, we figured that this season-his official rookie year-would be filled with about 100 steals and a .330 average. Realistic, no?

Well surprise, surprise, after a solid start to the season, Ellsbury fell into a black hole the last few months, meaning that he was dropped to ninth in the order, something that would have been unthinkable even in May. With the emergence of Evan Longoria in Tampa Bay, Ellsbury's rookie of the year trophy is currently hanging out with the Patriots unbeaten, Super Bowl champs t-shirts but that doesn't really matter. Over the last two games, Ellsbury has showed signs of being the leadoff hitter the Sox saw last season, particularly in the playoffs.

Hitting seventh last night, Jacoby had one of the best games of his short pro career as he went 3 for 5 with 2 runs, 3 RBIs and one spectacular catch.

The Red Sox (66-49) took care of business in Kansas City (53-62) after dropping the first game of the series, winning last night's finale 8-2.

No longer possessing the best 3-4 combo in baseball, Boston is relying on a more diverse attack. Pseudo leadoff man J.D. Drew was 2-for-4 with a 2 RBIs, a run and walk. Rookie Jed Lowrie hit second for the first time and delivered with a two-run double, walk and run. Jason Bay continued to chug along with two runs and two hits.

The only bad news was that Kevin Youkilis got hit on the wrist with a Luke Hochevar pitch in the first and had to leave. X-Rays were negative so I wouldn't be surprised if Youk is in the lineup tomorrow night when the Red Sox open their series in Chicago against the White Sox.

A constant victim of bad luck and little run support, Tim Wakefield (7-8) pitched six innings for the win. The knuckleballer gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits with six strikeouts.

Manny Delcarmen gave up two hits but pitched a scoreless seventh. Rookie Justin Masterson pitched a clean eighth with two strikeouts while closer Jonathan Papelbon got some work in the ninth, giving up two hits but no runs in a non-save situation.

Lowrie's double broke the scoreless tie in the fifth. David Ortiz's RBI single scored Lowrie, giving Boston a 3-0 lead.

Ross Gload's two-run single in the fifth cut the Boston lead to one but the Sox reeled off five more before it was all said and done.

Drew had a two-run single in the sixth and Ellsbury hit a three-run bomb to center off reliever Ron Mahay in the seventh, his first career homer off a lefty.

The Sox travel today and have an off-day before beginning a big four-game set with the AL Central leading White Sox.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ask and You Shall Receive


In yesterday's post, I shamelessly hoped for a Beckett gem and lo and behold, he came thorough last night.

After three straight losses, Beckett (10-8) picked up his first win in nearly a month as the Sox dumped the Royals, 8-2 at Kauffman Stadium.

The right-hander from Texas went 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.

Hitless in the series opener, Jason Bay came back with a vengeance last night, going 4-for-5, including two doubles, two runs and two RBIs. Hitting once again out of the ninth spot, Jacoby Ellsbury was 2-for-4 with a run, RBI and two steals.

In the first, David Ortiz's RBI single knocked in Dustin Pedroia, giving the Red Sox (65-49) a 1-0 lead.

Kansas City (53-61) tied it up in the home half of the first when Mark Teahan's double plated Mike Aviles.

Boston scored seven straight runs to put the game out of reach. Bay's double in the fourth scored Mike Lowell. Ellsbury came home on Pedroia's RBI single in the fifth. Ellsbury knocked in Bay with a single in the sixth and Jason Varitek scored on Pedroia's infield single later in the inning.

The Sox scored three more runs in the seventh. Bay's second double knocked in Youkilis and Jed Lowrie tripled, scoring Lowell and Bay.

Mitch Maier knocked in Alex Gordon with an RBI single in the seventh that signalled the end of Beckett's night.

Mike Timlin got four outs and rookie Chris Smith (who'll probably be sent down when David Aardsma is recalled) had a scoreless ninth.

Tim Wakefield goes against Luke Hochevar tonight in Kansas City as the Sox try and take the series before heading to the hood in Chicago.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We Could Have Used Manny Last Night


Baseball is such a grind that there's no point in getting wrapped up in individual games (unless it's October). Things change daily and it takes weeks, sometimes even months to get a real read on your team.

I said last week that the Manny Ramirez trade was a good thing. It was lopsided (not in the Sox' favor) but it had come to that point. Still, you couldn't help but wonder last night while the Sox left 21 guys on base, what Manny would have done in any of those spots?

We'll never know. The Kansas City Royals tried to give it away in the ninth but held on to beat Boston, 4-3 last night at Kaufman Stadium.

David Ortiz is already starting to gripe about the lack of good pitches he's seeing (without Manny hitting behind him). The Sox (64-49) jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Gil Meche and the Royals (53-60) in the first but after that they continually shot themselves in the foot.

With Mike Lowell out with a hip injury and Jacoby Ellsbury still lost at the plate, J.D. Drew led off. Drew walked to start the game then moved to third on Dustin Pedroia's (3 hits, run, walk) double. Ortiz's ground out scored Drew and Kevin Youkilis's double knocked in Pedroia.

Meche looked to be on the ropes early, not fooling any of the Sox hitters but he settled down after that. Meche (10-9) went six innings, allowing two runs on four hits with five walks and nine strikeouts.

Staked to a 2-0 lead right out of the gate, Clay Buchholz (2-7) couldn't make it last past the second inning. Alex Gordon (2 walks) hit a solo homer in the second and the Royals scored three times in the third.

Mark Teahan had an RBI single, Billy Butler added a sacrifice fly and Buchholz hit John Buck with the bases loaded.

I never thought I'd say this in 2008 but Bartolo Colon can't come back soon enough to the Sox rotation. Buchholz is talented, no question, but it just doesn't seem like he'll put it together this season. Maybe next year or the season after that, he'll be like Jon Lester this season (ie. he'll completely improve). Who knows?

Buchholz gave up four runs in six innings, allowing seven hits, three walks and four strikeouts.

Boston made some noise in the ninth as they loaded the bases with two outs against Royals closer Joakim Soria. With runners at first and third, the Royals elected to walk Youk (something that wouldn't have happened say last week). Jason Bay hit a weak grounder to third but third baseman Gordon and shortstop Tony Pena Jr. collided while Coco Crisp scored.

Sean Casey had a rare start and he was up next. He hit a decent shot to right but Teahhan snared it for the final out. Soria had to throw 31 pitches, giving up three hits, one walk and a strikeout but in the end he recorded his 32nd save.

Josh Beckett faces Brian Bannister tonight and nothing would be better than a vintage Beckett start.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Props to Billy Beane for throwing away another season


It turns out that the 2008 Oakland Athletics as currently constructed are the cure for what ails you.

After a week of doom and gloom, with the Sox playing terribly against the Yankees and Angels before shipping away Manny Ramirez, everything is bright and sunny once again on Yawkey Way.

Boston won 5-2 yesterday at Fenway, sweeping the three games against the A's, who have traded Joe Blanton and Rich Harden earlier this season, all but surrendering the rest of the year.

Dice-K improved to 12-2 with a typical start. Six innings, two runs allowed on four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. He would have been gone anyway after 105 pitches but a short rain delay made that a moot point.

The Red Sox (64-48) offense was paced by Kevin Youkilis (2 hits, RBI), Jason Bay (2 hits, 2 runs), Jed Lowrie (run, 2-run triple, walk) and Coco Crisp (2 RBI sacrifice flys).

Dustin Pedroia led off the bottom of the first with a double. Youk followed with an RBI single and moved up to second on the throw.

Boston put three up in the fourth inning to take a 4-0 lead. Lowrie drove in Mike Lowell and Bay with a two-run triple to the triangle in center. Coco knocked in Lowrie with his first sacrifice fly.

The A's (53-57) made it slightly interesting in the fifth as Daric Barton hit a two-run homer to right off Matsuzaka.

Coco's second sac. fly in the sixth scored Bay with the last run of the game. It was a great first weekend for Bay at Fenway, he also threw out Mark Ellis at second, trying to stretch a single into a double.

Hideki Okajima pitched a scoreless seventh, Manny Delcarmen worked a clean eighth and Jonathan Papelbon recorded a 1-2-3 ninth for his 31st save.

Boston heads out on the road for a seven game trip: three at Kansas City then four at the White Sox. Hopefully the Sox can continue their solid play against the Royals, another team that has little but pride to play for as we had into the dog days of Summer.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Jason Bay cures Cancer and AIDS before banging Jessica Biel


You can't ask for much more in a debut. The Red Sox (62-48) outlasted the A's (53-55) last night 2-1 in 12 innings and everyone's new favorite player Jason Bay figured prominently in the win.

Missing a home run by a few feet on the Monster, Bay had a triple in the 12th off A's reliever Alan Embree. J.D. Drew (2 hits, 3 walks) was walked intentionally then rookie Jed Lowrie (2 hits, 2 RBIs) came through with the first walk-off hit of his career.

It was an infield hit up the middle that went over Embree and Lowrie beat shortstop Bobby Crosby's throw to first. Bay scored the winning run in his first game in Boston and also had a few nice plays in left field.

Tim Wakefield and Justin Duchscherer dueled for the first six innings. Both ended up with no-decisions but they each deserved better. Duchscherer went six innings, allowing a run on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts. Wakefield lasted 6.1 innings, giving up four hits, three walks and four strikeouts.

After walking in his first career at bat for the Sox, Bay eventually came around to score the first run of the game on Lowrie's sacrifice fly in the second.

Jack Cust hit a opposite field bomb off Hideki Okajima in the eighth and then the Sox squandered a few great chances to end it before the 12th.

Mike Lowell left in the 12th with a right hip strain. Kevin Youkilis had three hits. Jonathan Papelbon pitched two scoreless innings and Mike Timlin (4-3) worked the 12th for the win.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Thanks for the Memories Manny, Welcome Jason Bay



With the 4pm trade deadline rapidly approaching yesterday, after watching coverage on NESN during lunch with nothing happening (sorry, Ken Griffey Jr. is no longer big news), I took a shower figuring that the Red Sox were going to keep Manny Ramirez for the rest of the season.

When I got out, my phone started to beep with text messages, the unlikely had happened: the Sox worked a three-way trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. Manny was going to the Dodgers while Pirates outfielder Jason Bay comes to Boston.

Even after preparing for a moment like this for the last few weeks, the actual event is still surprising. Like in 2004 when Nomar Garciaparra was traded, the Red Sox rolled the dice and made a controversial splash.

Without question, Boston gave up a lot to get rid of their Manny-induced headache. They're paying him for the rest of the year and also traded Brandon Moss (who could be the next David Murphy but didn't have a place in the Sox outfield) and Craig Hansen (who is a bust) to the Pirates. Bay is the only player the Sox get in return.

A Yankees killer, one of the most clutch players and all-around best hitters I'll ever see in my lifetime (especially on my favorite team), Manny has created endless positive memories for Red Sox fans the past eight seasons. This was necessary though; both sides needed a fresh start.

It was too much of a risk to hope that Manny would be motivated for the rest of the season (even though he was theoretically playing for a contract).

Playing in obscurity, Bay at 29-years-old is still an unknown commodity. He's a two-time all-star for the Pirates and rookie of the year. He'll play left field and bat somewhere from 3-6. Will he handle the pressure of Boston? That and many other similar questions are impossible to answer at this point. Let's give the guy some time to get his feet wet before we start making the final decision.

Manny's presence on the Dodgers makes them instant contenders, especially in the weak NL West. He's reunited with Nomar and Derek Lowe, the 2003 Red Sox reloaded. It'll be strange to see him in a different uniform, hitting ropes but such is life. Time to move on and move forward.